Friday, December 28, 2012

TLtS: Thursday Night Tarot

I am reading  Thursday Night Tarot  The conversation has a lot more to do with it than some pretty playing cards.  He emphasises over and over again, that God gives us certain specialized skills and blessings unique to each of us.  Then He calls us to use those blessing for the betterment of us all.  How do you know what you are called to do?  Follow your bliss.  Do what you do best and be the best at it.  Don’t let anyone stop you or tell you that instead of “that” you should be doing “this”.  Another interesting observation he has is that no one is born “bad”.  Children with ADD aren’t bad nor handicapped they just don’t fit into our society’s concept of education which is sit still in a class room with your mouth shut.  Being naturally, “loud and obnoxious” is not contrary to God’s intent, it’s just contrary to society’s belief that a professional office space should be as sterile as a lab and quiet as a tomb.  As a friend and I once observed; “It ain’t a sin, unless God says it’s a sin!”

VftSW: Three Dogs

I came to work across the muskeg yesterday.  I always forget how pretty it is.  Yesterday I hiked the golden red of a winter muskeg, low ceiling and ground fog drifting from center stage to off stage on the right.  I guess the high light of the trip was three dogs.  I haven't had time to think about them.  The first was a brown Labrador.  The dog has known me since its puppyhood.  It barks loudly from the end of its chain but the tail is wagging wildly.   The next was a black lab I didn't recognize that sat at the side of the road, but kept its back to me sort of "I'm invisible.  You can't see me." things.  The final was some big dog that didn't see me until I was way past its property.  Its bark was loud and ferocious and it began stalking me at some distance. 

I looked around for a stick to throw.  (It's a trick I learned when dealing with the dogs that lived next door to Paul in DJ.  When being charged, you raise a stick over your head.  Bad dogs cower and run away with their tails between their legs.  Good dogs sit with the tails wagging, waiting for you to throw it.)  I considered picking up a 4x4 in the ditch, but no dog deserves that.  Besides the magic works just as well with a twig as a stick.  It gave up following me.   

So, a dog doing its duty.  A dog afraid. And a dog too brave.  I wonder if that says something about the way we live our lives.  Duty can bind us like a chain.  Fear; well that's Satan's weapon of choice.  And some of us are braver than our Master requires us to be. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

TFBT: Helen's Handmaiden

Aethra was there when Paris met Helen.  She was there when the sword fell from Menelaus' hand and Helen welcomed back into her bossom.  Aethra raised Helen, raised Theseus and raised her own great-grandson.  She was a princess in Greece and a slave in Asia Minor.  Like Nestor she witnessed three generations of men come and go upon the face of the other.

The story of Aethra starts as such stories often do with a woman being carried away in a chariot pulled by winged horses.  On the far left out of view are her grandfather Oenomaus and his charioteer Myrtilus in pursuit of her grandparents Pelops and Hippomada.  These sorts of contests usually don’t end well for someone.  If you wonder where Pelops charioteer is; Sphairos falls into the sea at Lesbos and drowns in route to the contest.[i]  Poseidon’s favorite; Pelops finally won with a little help advice.  Oddly the winning scheme didn't come from Aphrodite, the goddess of Love.  The ,  as it ends up, bad advice came  from Sphairos’ ghost.  Aethra’s grandparents go on to raise myriad sons.  Of particular note in Aethra’s life were her uncles Hippachlas and Trozeon along with her father Pittheous.  For a family with such a remarkable large number of boys, those sons were remarkable in their inability to raise legitimate, un-cursed male heirs.  Pittheus married his niece Alcmene (a common practice in Greek mythology). On her father’s side Alcmene was a niece of the legendary Gorgophone, daughter of Perseus, tamer of the winged horse Pegasus.  

An image on a vase showing Aethra’s rescue by her grandsons show a small woman, but maybe the weight of 90 years and decades of slavery weighed upon her shoulder.  Her father was the king of Hyperea and Anthea, which he merged into a new city, called Trozeon in honor of his brother.  In later years there would be a temple to Artemis the Savior.  In this temple are altars to the gods said to rule under the earth. It is here that they say Semele was brought out of Hell by Dionysus, and that Heracles dragged up the Hound of Hell.  (Pausanias) So surely she was once a beautiful princess made more beautiful by the fact that she was her father’s sole heir.  (Her sister Henioche doesn’t seem to get mentioned much.)  As a matter of fact, Bellerphon, the hero made famous by also riding about on the winged horse Pegasus, courted and became engaged to Aethra.  But prior to the marriage he “accidently” killed a kinsman and went into exile. 

At which point along comes King Aegeus of Athens. On his way home from Delphi, he stopped at Troezen, a city southwest of Athens.  Pittheus got Aegeus drunk on unmixed wine and put him to bed with Aethra. The goddess Athena; the patroness of Athens sent Aethra a dream.  Following the instructions of Athena, Aethra left the sleeping Aegeus and waded across to the island of Sphairia that lay close to Troezen’ s shore. There she poured a libation to Cillus the charioteer of Pelops, whose real name, according to a Troezenian tradition, was Sphaerus. His tomb was shown near the town of Cilla in the neighborhood of the temple of Apollo. (Paus. v. 10. § 2; Strab. xiii. p. 613.) As though she was the eponymous nymph of the place.  Aethra bedded the sea-god Poseidon.  Still in the eponymous mode Aethra named the island Sphaera Hiera (sacred) and had a temple built there to the goddess Athena Apaturia.  She established the custom in Troezen that girls dedicated their girdles to Athena when they got married.   Now Aethra’s son was heir to the thrones of Troezen, Athens and the islands of Sphairia and Kalavria.[ii]

When the product of those unions, Theseus, reached maturity, Aethra showed him a huge rock.  It served as a primitive altar to Strong Zeus.  There the tokens his mortal father left behind were hidden; the proof of Theseus’s birthright.   At some point Aethra marries her Uncle Hippalcus.  He was one of the Argonauts.    The product of that marriage was "ox-eyed" Clymene, thus half-sister to Theseus and a distant relative to Menelaus. [iii] In Euripides’ Suppliants it is Aethra that intercedes on behalf of the unburied and convinces Theseus to enter the wars at Thebes on the side of righteousness. 

Aethra reappears in the mythic storyline thirty years later Theseus and his best friend Peirithous decided they needed new wives.  They decided they deserved daughters of Zeus.  On the left sans winged chariot, are the two heroes carrying off Helen daughter of Tyndareus, the most beautiful woman every born on earth.  Also in the picture is Corone, the eponymous nymph of Messenia.  For Perithous’ bride they chose Persephone, Queen of the Dead.  Clearly there was some unmixed wine involved in this decision making.  While they were gone on this expedition, Theseus handed the under-age Helen off to his mother Aethra’s care. And set them up in Ancient Aphidna, which was one of the twelve ancient towns of Attica, then ruled by earth-born Aphidnus.  Then off to Hades they went.  The involvement of Persephone once again invokes the image of a woman being carried off in a chariot drown by winged horses, these particular horses being black ones flying up out of the chasm that formed beneath the girl’s feet.  As, I said, such races don’t end up well of someone.  Theseus and Peirithous spent a lot longer time in Hades that expected.  

As Persephone spent some time in the realm of Hades, called Hades, so Helen spent time in the realm of King Aphidnus named Aphidna.  Here Aethra began her Hecate-like existence as foster-mother, companion and slave to Helen.  Just as Dionysus had Polymnus to point out the entrance to Hades in Troezen, so Helen’s brothers had Decelme to show where their sister was hidden.  When Aphidna fell her brothers brought Helen back to Sparta, with Theseus’s mother Aethra and a sister of Peirithous as slaves. Along with Aethra’s daughter Clymene.[iv]  According to Pausanias’ description of the chest of Cypselus [Pausanias 5.19.3] “Aethra, the daughter of Pittheus, lies thrown to the ground under the feet at Helen. She is clothed in black, and the inscription upon the group is an hexameter line with the addition of a single word: The sons of Tyndareus are carrying of Helen, and are dragging Aethra from Athens

She reappears to our view when Alexander arrives at Sparta. Ovid quotes Helen says” Æthra and Clymene, my faithful companions and counselors. “ and suggests they aided in her elopement.  (P. Ovidius Naso, The Epistles of Ovid).  Aethra’s grandson Acamas and his brother  Demophoon were sent,  prior to the launch of  the “thousand ships”  to demand the surrender of Helen.  During his stay at Troy Acamas won the affection of Laodice, daughter of Priam and begot by her a son, Munitus.  Munitus was raised by his great-grandmother Aethra .[v]  Homer mentioned Aethra and Clymene accompanying Helen to the Scaean Gate [Iliad 3.139) Visit here for more on Helen

Pausanias’ mentioned that when Troy fell, Aethra with a shaven head, snuck to the Greek camp, and was recognized by her grandsons Demophoon and Acamas.  With his sister-in-law’s approval Agamemnon released Aethra and her daughter from bondage (Paus. x. 25.7-8)   Munitus, was killed by the bite of a snake while hunting at Olynthus in Thrace.( Parthenius of  Nicaea) while his family visited the Bisaltae on the lower reaches of the Strymon River.  Surely he too was buried with heroic honors. [vi]

Aethra and her daughter Clymene returned to Athens in triumph accompanied by Menestheus leader of the Athenians at Troy . Her grandson Acamas accepted the crown of Athens shortly thereafter.

( Corone tries to free Helen carried by Theseus. On the left side Pirithous, pot by Euthymides, 2308 Munich,  Pelops and Hippodamia from Charles Mills Gayley, The Classic Myths in English Literature and in Art (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1893) 171)

An updated version of this article can be found at Hour 25.

i] Cillas, the charioteer of Pelops, though Troezenius gives his name as Sphaerus, died on the way to Pisa, and appeared to Pelops by night, begging that he might be duly buried. Pelops took pity on him and burnt* his body with all ceremony, raised a huge mound in his honor, and built a chapel to the Cillean Apollo near it. He also named a town after him. This dutiful attention did not go unrewarded. Cillas appeared to Pelops again, and thanked him for all he had done, and to Cillas also he is said to have owed the information by which he was able to overthrow Oenomaus in the famous chariot race which won him the hand of Hippodamia. 
 Greek and Roman Ghost Stories by Lacy Collison-Morley, St. John’s College, Oxford. 
[ii] Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 33. 1 :
"The Troezenians possess islands, one of which is near the mainland, and it is possible to wade across the channel. This was formerly called Sphairia . . . In it is the tomb of Sphairos, who, they say, was charioteer to Pelops."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 2. 33. 1
[iii] Homer, Iliad, 3. 144
[v] Dictionary of Greek and roman biography.
[vi] Surely he was buried with heroic honors like the Argonaut Mopsus bitten by a serpent born of Medusa blood in Libya (Argonautica I, 65-68 and 1502-1536);   the Arcadian King Aepytis. He is said to have been killed during the chase on Mount Sepia by the bite of a venomous snake and mentioned by Homer ( Pausanias, viii. 4. § 4, 16. § 2), or Canopus, the helmsman of Menelaus, who on his return from Troy died in Egypt, in consequence of the bite of a snake, and was buried by Menelaus on the site of the town of Canobus, which derived its name from him. (Strab. xvii. p. 801;.)  or the child Opheltes  crushed by a serpent when his nurse looked for water and afterwards honored as Archemoros with the Nemean games.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

TFBT: Proper Pray and Personal Conversations in the Iliad

Here I present examples of the proper  prayers and personal conversations styles in the epic.  The “typical structure of prayer” in epic is; the invocation of the divine, a reminder of the reciprocal obligations between the god and man and the specific request. 1  I am under the impression there is a similar structure for personal conversation; touch, say a word, call by name and then speak.  And naturally there are examples of combining the two.

PRAYER can most famously be illustrated by Iliad 1:33.  Apollo’s priest Chryses just failed to ransom his daughter and was summarily expelled from the Achaean camps;
·        “when he had gone apart,
·        the old man invoked Apollo by praying; "Hear me, god of the silver bow,”
·        reminded Loxias of their relationship with a “if ever I roofed over a temple to your pleasing, or if ever I burned to you fat thigh-pieces of bulls and goats,”
·        then requested specifically “fulfill this prayer for me: let the Danaans pay for my tears by your arrows." 

Many of the twenty prayers in the Iliad listed by Ian Johnston2  are performed similarly.  For example, Tenth book starting at line 227 when Odysseus and Diomedes depart on their night mission.
·        they went their way and left there all the chieftains.
·        Odysseus invokes” Child of aegis-bearing Zeus, untiring goddess, hear me.
·        Reminds her of their relationship, “You’ve always stood  beside me in all sorts of troubles. I don’t move without you watching me.
·        Then requests, “Grant that we two come back to the ships
covered in glory, “
Likewise Diomedes,  
·        Invoked  Child of Zeus, invincible goddess, hear me.”
·        Requests “Stand by me…”
·        And then reminds  her of her affection and relationship his family ”as you did my father, lord Tydeus, at Thebes, …       and I’ll sacrifice to you an unbroken yearling ox with a broad head.”  (Often the prayer of prayers mentioned mutual obligations of the past and promises of favors to come on the part the prayer.) 

PERSONAL CONVERSATION style  involving touch;  say a word, call by name and then speak,   might best be demonstrated with Iliad 1:347 where a distraught Achilles is comforted by his mother Thetis.  Achilles:
·        withdrew apart from his comrades, and sat down on the shore of the grey sea,”
·        His mother Thetis “stroked him with her hand,”
·        “and spoke to him,”
·        and “called him by name:”
·        Then spoke, "My child, why do you weep?" 

Another conversation that surprising follows the convention for personal conversation rather than prayer can be found in Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo around line 3003 
·        Hera “went apart from the gods, being very angry.”
·        She said some words, that is “Hera prayed,
·        She touched the goddess Gaia by “striking the ground flatwise with her hand”,
·        Called “ Gaia and wide Uranus above, and you Titans who dwell beneath the earth about great Tartarus,
·        She requested; “grant that I may bear a child apart from Zeus, no wit lesser than him in strength--nay, let him be as much stronger than Zeus as all-seeing Zeus than Cronus.”
Notice the lack of claim to relationship or promise of favors as in a prayer.

PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS AS PRAYERS is a style of conversation in the Iliad that continues to follow the formula above; usually, when the approaching party needs something from the other.  For example in Iliad 14.222 after lying to Aphrodite something awful and using neither formula;
·        “Hera darted down and left the peak of Olympus;”
·        “she clasped him by the hand,”
·        and spake
·        “and addressed him: "Sleep, lord of all gods and of all men” 
At which point a standard use of another’s name became an invocations and the conversations continued in the tradition of prayer,
·        Hera created a relationship between herself and the son of Night by stating, “ if ever thou didst hearken to word of mine, so do thou even now obey,  and I will owe thee thanks all my days.” (“And gifts will I give thee,”)
·        Then asks specifically  “Lull me to sleep the bright eyes of Zeus” 

Thetis uses a similar formula when asking of Zeus the favor that her son Achilles never quite finished formally;  Iliad 1.493
·        she found the far-seeing son of Cronus sitting apart from the rest upon the topmost peak of many-ridged Olympus.
·        So she sat down before him, and clasped his knees with her left hand, while with her right she touched him beneath the chin,
·        and she spoke in prayer to king Zeus, son of Cronus:
·        called his name or invoked him, "Father Zeus,
·        reminded him of their relationship, “if ever amid the immortals I gave you aid by word or deed”  An understatement if ever there was one considering she rescued him when bound by the other gods.. 
·        “grant me this prayer: do honor to my son, who is doomed to a speedy death beyond all other men; yet now Agamemnon, king of men, has dishonored him, for he has taken and keeps his prize by his own arrogant act. But honor him, Olympian Zeus, lord of counsel; and give might to the Trojans, until the Achaeans do honor to my son, and magnify him with recompense." 

King Priam uses the same personal conversation turned prayer strategy at Iliad 24.468;
·        “he found Achilles, but his comrades sat apart”
      ·        “clasped in his hands his knees, and kissed his hands, the terrible, man-slaying hands that had slain his many sons. “
At this point formula for conversation or prayer would require the calling or invoking of the name of Peleus’ son.  Doomed and heartbroken, Priam might be forgiven his inability to say that terrible name.   He moves onto to the prayer formula.
     ·        He says "Remember thy father, O Achilles like to the gods, whose years are even as mine, on the grievous threshold of old age”.  Which we might understand as in “If ever you remember your father…”  Priam tries and affectively creates a relationship between Achilles a man who will never again embrace his father and the Priam who will never know his son’s embrace again. “and I bear with me ransom past counting”
     ·        He states his specific need  I now come to the ships of the Achaeans to win him back from thee 

I should mention that in my experience since working on this paper that all three styles of speaking in the Iliad are also affective in modern life. 


1        Laura Slatkin The Power of Thetis page 62, speaking on Meullner Meaning of the Homeric EYXOMAI 

2       Speakers and Speeches in Homer’s Iliad   by Ian Johnston

3           trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th - 4th B.C.